One of my favourite leaders is going to be where I am in the week ahead. I always get a boost when I hear him talk and frame this issues important to me. I am also going to hear one of my favourite bands and I will be hanging out with some of my favourite people all week too.
To prefer, or privilege, a thing or a person or an idea over another, is one of the ways we make the paths on which to travel. I wouldn’t be without favourites. I have started looking for the shadow thrown by orientating myself to favourites – it is a bit like when you are given a plate of vegetables to eat as a child and you stick to the ones you know and like the taste of and don’t have a go at the others, even though they might “be good for you”. Building the space where all those vegetables can co-exist and where you can safely try them with support and affirmation for at least having a go seems to be a useful approach to trying new things. In my work, we often talk about helping to create the conditions for that safety and then stretching the system to take another step to be more inclusive, more equitable, to taste and feel what it might be like to poke those other vegetables on the plate. I notice how hard this can be and with all the ferocity of a toddler refusing to eat something new, some parts of the system dig in, yell and scream and run away as fast as their legs can carry them. I am doing a bit of that myself from time to time.
In my still relatively new state of widowhood, I am learning what I actually like for myself and am not referencing someone else’s favourites to make decisions on how I go about in the world. I am learning what I like and what works for me. This practice is often uncomfortable even though there is so much familiarity, and even though I know what might be on the plate and what the names of all the vegetables are, I am only just beginning to recognise that there might be other plates to lay foundations on. This will seem strange to those who have spent a lot of their lives making choices for themselves, but it is genuinely novel for me still. I am discovering what my favourite things are in my familiar landscape at the same time trying to remain open to new possibilities in new landscapes. Pilgrim life offers up new roads and to orientate myself to be at the edge of my discomfort is a constant invitation to growth and adaptation. I am noticing where I am pushing back and hanging on, where wounds want to weep and where wounds want to heal.
I have an aversion to not trying some things and prefer to stick with my favourites. One of my favourite people, who I will get to see this week, says learning happens when are at the edge of our discomfort. I know this is true, I often mid-wife discomfort in others, but I am less likely to put myself into that space. It is hard to (as Arnold Mindell describes) to sit in the fire, even when I know this is where transformational change begins. Conflict, diversity, taking responsibility for our own mini-acts of terrorism means letting go or at least not giving as much privilege to favourites. It means opening and being prepared for the consequences of that opening. So I am asking myself: what lies beneath the choosing of favourites? Is it the comfort? The familiarity? The pleasure? The ease? The thought perhaps of what might happen if we move away from what we know – the disruption that might come? The sparks that might start flying? Afterall, you do have to light a fuse and let the mechanism activate for what was hidden inside the casing to explode.